Do I even know you?

This whole experience has been similar to looking at your children from a different perspective.  I know my kids better than anyone else on this earth.  I know how they handle happiness, sadness, disappointment, triumph.  I know their struggles and their strengths.  I know them like the back of my hand.  Or do I? As parents our hope is that we can guide and teach our children to grow into kind, responsible, confident young people. We focus on teaching them “our ways” of doing things, encouraging them to overcome adversity, and modeling what we think is important.  Some of it seems to be getting through.  Other things are missing the mark.  When that happens, we are quick to try to “fix” the behavior/habit/struggle that they have.  But how often do we take a step back and ask “why are you acting/responding/melting down?”  Are they just being defiant, strong-willed, or even dramatic?  Maybe.  But it could be about something completely different.  It could be something at a deeper, physiological level.

The more we meet with the staff here at TMC, the more we are studying our kids from a different angle.  So much of what we see at home and don’t understand is starting to make sense.  Why they do certain things or find simple tasks more difficult may actually be related to inefficiencies in their development.  Who knew?  I have been blown away so far by what I’ve been learning.  It’s reminding me of the editing process of photography.  For example, you take a picture of a baseball field.  To everyone else it looks amazing.  But when you load the image into your photo editing software, you start to pick the image apart.  You zoom in on every part of the image and start noticing things you didn’t at first glance.  The exposure could have been brighter, the shadows could be lifted, the color more vibrant.  The original picture was good, but with a little tweaking, it could be even better.  Piece by piece, you are able to make small changes to the image to make it brighter, more defined, enhanced.  And once the editing is complete, you can step back and see how every little part molded together to make an even more beautiful photograph. People are like pictures.  From the outside, we can look great, but when you look closer, you see things that need improvement.  And this place is in the business of making small developmental changes in brains to make them work more efficiently.  How these changes correlate to reading?  I haven’t quite figured it out.  But my friends have assured me to just trust the process and watch the pieces all come together.

I came here confident I knew my kids, but I have a feeling when I leave, I’ll be able to not only know them, but to understand them better.  So go ahead TMC! Keep reminding me of all the ways my kids are amazing.  Then show me how you will make them FEEL just as amazing for themselves.

This Week has been the LONGEST Year Ever! (Week 1 @ The Morris Center)

Whew!  What a week!  For the kids and the adults.  So much testing for the kids, and lots of information for us.  On Monday, we arrived with three nervous, uncertain kids.  We were greeted by the smiling faces of some of the staff who quickly ushered them through the office to show them the routine…..where to put their lunches, how to read their daily schedule, etc.  They came back looking a bit timid still.  Just then, Dr. Conway walked in and said, “Kids, before you get started, come outside.  I want to show you something.”  After a minute I peeked out the door to see 3 smiling faces laughing and examining a souped up mountain bike.  He had their attention!  In that moment I saw their shoulders relax and their chins tilt up a little.  To make it even better, Dr. Conway sat on the couch and softly explained the day to them. (okay, maybe I was too harsh in my initial impression post about those couches…they are comfy…but still…) In that moment, I wanted to give Dr. Conway a big bear hug for easing their anxious hearts (and maybe mine too).

You know how the first week of school is fairly easy…..more about learning the routine than actual academics?  Well, this first week  was NOTHING like that.  They hit the ground running and never slowed down.  The comprehensive testing usually takes 1 week for a kid, but since there’s three of them, they’ve had to split it up over two weeks.  When they aren’t testing, they’re already starting the first language sessions for the program.  The clinic runs a tight schedule every day so that the kids can maximize each moment of learning.  According to Brady, the 10 minute breaks between sessions last only 2 minutes.  OT and scheduled outside play are a welcomed escape from the rigorous mental work required.  We’ve heard, “my brain hurts,” multiple times by all three of them. And you know what?  We believe them!  By the week’s end we had no trouble getting them to bed. They are exhausted.  Each has had his/her share of meltdowns and arguments so we’ve offered a large amount of grace since we understand how hard they are working.  This is some intense testing and we are only on week one. Bless it.

While the kids were busy testing, Mom and I spent about 8 hours at the center in meetings. The actual number of staff members at the clinic  is surprisingly small to me.  It almost feels like they are running on a skeleton crew.  Only certain staff are certified to administer testing, and their plates already appear overloaded.  By the end of the week I could see fatigue on both the kids and the staffs’ faces.  For good reason too!  Some of the staff members aren’t usually in the office 5 days a week but did so for us.  Administering, then scoring the testing results for three is no doubt time-consuming!  These people wrapped up a tough week of end-of-treatment testing for 2 of our friends from Arkansas, then  put in another strenuous week to get us started on our journey.  To their credit, they gave us their undivided attention at each meeting, never rushing us to wrap it up and never showing their fatigue.  They listened patiently, explained things thoroughly and took ample time discussing each kid. We left every meeting feeling better and better.  Why?  Because they love what they do, believe in the program and truly want to see our kids succeed.  The meetings included Clint, Davin & Jamie via FaceTime and left us feeling impressed….and surprised…..and intrigued…..curious and fascinated by what we’ve heard.  We had individual meetings for each child with the psychologist, occupational therapist, and neuropsychologist (i.e. brain scientist).The information we received at each meeting was more than we expected.  Within the first 2 days, they had already identified areas of concern that aligned with concerns we’ve had with each kid.  Even more so, they were pointing out areas of deficit we didn’t realize had anything to do with dyslexia.  It was like an “ah ha” moment for us.  So much of the things our kids struggle with outside of the academic realm are affected by this inefficiency in their brains.  Already we’ve learned so much, yet it’s only the beginning.  I can’t wait to get even more information in the weeks ahead.

 

 

Let’s Be Honest: We are Terrible About Judging Books by The Cover!

On Thursday we were finally able to visit the clinic, meet everyone and tour the facility.  First impression….the facility itself was underwhelming. Oversized furniture in a small waiting room, cluttered front office, narrow hallways, & walls a colorless hue of beige. Basically it screams MAKEOVER!  Some updating and interior changes are in need.  I know, I know…..this is an office with professionals……a brain scientist, highly credentialed educators, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, creative  and energetic office staff. Interior design is probably not on the top of their priorities.  The work they are doing is way more important and their reputations alone speak for themselves.  Unfortunately we are humans who often judge by outward appearance instead of the heart.  First impressions and the manner in which things are presented matter and can determine success or failure. For a family like ours that has financially invested so much into a team of experts that promise to change our kids’ lives, scrutiny comes with the territory.  We’ve made sacrifices to be here and arrived on a mission to fully immerse ourselves into this rigorous  program. Naturally, we have high hopes but we are cautiously optimistic.  When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.  Walking into the facility the first day did very little to ease our apprehension.  It is not what you would expect for a place that is revolutionizing the world of dyslexia based on scientific research. Thankfully however, we have friends already in the program that assured us not to “judge a book by it’s cover.”  In all honesty, without their reassurance, I probably would have panicked and left with more fear and doubts about our decision, just based on what my eyes had seen.  Now that would have been TRAGIC!

On the bright side, if I try to look past the dated building, The Morris Center doesn’t feel like a medical facility. The kids certainly found it’s cozy charm more appealing than a sterile doctor’s office. They didn’t seem to notice anything but the fun equipment in the OT room.  (They do amazing work in a very tiny space).

The biggest bright spot of all  is definitely the staff!  The impression they made felt a lot like relief.  They are professionals that are experts in their fields.  They understand the objective and are confident they will succeed.  They are warm and welcoming. They connect easily with each child and earnestly want to know the kids on a personal level.  They explained the program in terms the kids could understand. (For ex….Dr. Conway referred to Cannon’s brain as a Ferrari running on bad gas or not firing on all cylinders. He assure Cannon that when he leaves, his brain will be a full performance Ferrari).

The staff at The Morris Center have a passion for what they are doing, and that passion is contagious.   A program that offers such incredible results and leaves clients in awe deserves to have a cover that matches the inside.

HGTV, if you’re listening….I’ve found your next project…..and I can think of no other place that deserves it more than The Morris Center.

 

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Not So Sweet Dreams From Ocala

Today was a low-key, quiet day.  A day that was still and much needed. The first we’ve had in a few weeks.  There were no alarm clocks, no rushing, no to-do lists, no places to go.  Just a day spent in our tiny house, everyone in their own worlds.  There was lots of tv, iPads, reading, video games, FaceTiming with friends, cooking, napping, a little bike riding & artwork.  We are missing our people but we are adjusting to a new normal here in Ocala.  Tomorrow starts our last week of quarantine and essentially the last week of their summer break.

In our contentment at home, we lost track of time and realized too late it was way past bedtime.  11:00…..a peaceful evening quickly turned into a Brady v. Avery rumble in the living room.  What would have been easily handled and forgotten earlier in the day, turned into a hitting, screaming, crying fit. As they were forced to their respective rooms, they said the best parting words to one another:

(There was a mention of the recycling bin by Cannon…..)

Avery:  Brady needs to be put in the recycle bin!

Brady: SHUT UP!!!!

Oh parting is such sweet sorrow….

When they wake in the morning, all will be forgotten.  But tonight, they were ready to say goodbye forever.

Once in our room, I tried wiping away her tears but realized we had crossed the point of no return.  There were no hugs, words or snuggles that could soothe an over-tired, sensitive soul expressing her strong feelings about a ruined life at the hands of a red-headed boy.  Much to her dismay, there was no “chill time” in her bed with her iPad so she reluctantly snuggled in with her favorite stuffed animals.  She refused my offer to sleep in my bed, determined to remain stoic in her anger.  But a little arm slowly creeped to the edge of her bed and I knew exactly why.  I reached out and held that small hand and gently rubbed the top with my thumb.  She never acknowledged it but certainly didn’t pull away.  In the silence, I lay staring at her small face.  I saw sadness in her downcast eyes and pouty lip.  Eventually though, the sleepiness took over and she began to blink a little more frequently than before.  I wondered what was going through her mind.  Was she thinking about the last 10 minutes or something more?  Life has been a lot lately.  Her little safe and comfortable environment has been completely uprooted in the past 3 weeks.  What she thought was ahead of her & looked forward to for summer is no longer the same.  Was she thinking about her friends back home and missing them?  Was she wishing her Daddy was here to tuck her in?  Was she hoping to dream about running in the yard with our dogs, Sadie & Millie?  Is she fearful of the grueling schedule that is quickly approaching?  Or was she simply envisioning the blue of the ocean and feel of the sand between her toes?  She has a heavy load on her little shoulders.  Some would crumble under the pressure of so much, so fast.  But not my Avery.  She’s put her big girl panties on and walked bravely into the unknown.

And as I lay beside her from my own bed, holding her soft fingers in the palm of my hand, I am sent back in time to when I held her in my arms and rocked her to sleep.  It was one of my most treasured times with her as a baby. No distractions or noise.  Just a mama holding her little girl, watching her eyes blink closed, praying she would one day have the confidence to chase her dreams while knowing how much she is loved and cherished.  Tonight as her eyelids got heavier and the blinking slowed down, I watched them close softly for the last time until sunrise, and I listened to her breathing deepen as she drifted off to sleep.  Once she was finally sound asleep, I continued to  stare at her little face as tears ran down my cheeks.  This beautiful, smart, strong, kind and BRAVE girl is facing all life throws at her head-on.  When the storms of change surround her, she doesn’t turn away.  She pulls on her rubber boots and boldly walks directly into the rain. She also makes sure those walking with her keep up and don’t lose hope.  She may stumble and fall a few times, but there’s no doubt she will stand up and continue on her way, in search of the sunlight through the clouds.   If only I could have been this brave at just 9 years old.  She is my daughter and she is fierce!